Criminal Gang Transporting Ton Of Cocaine From South America to Europe Arrested In Portugal

Image of suspected cocaine traffickers being arrested in Portugal.

Image of suspected cocaine traffickers being arrested in Portugal. Credit: Twitter@policia

A joint operation involving Spain’s National Police and members of the Portuguese Navy led to a criminal organisation being smashed. 

The gang had allegedly been transporting large amounts of cocaine between South America and Europe using sailboats.

As reported by the National Police, at the end of 2022, a Joint Investigation Team was created between Spain and Portugal, under the coordination of Europol and Eurojust.

It was formed for the investigation of an organisation dedicated to the international transport of cocaine known to be using recreational boats.

Investigators located several members of the group – of different nationalities – in towns on the Costa del Sol, the Region of Murcia, and Portugal.

Fernando Jordão, the director of the Judicial Police in the southern region of Portugal, explained to EFE this Monday, June 26, that the gang has been dismantled in the country after the arrest of all the suspects, according to

He added that the investigations will continue and that they are extended also to Spain, although he declined to share more details.

The gang only employed experienced sailors

Experienced sailors who could handle the sailboats were employed by the gang. As a result, even in adverse weather conditions, they could still transport large amounts of cocaine to Europe from the Colombian cartels in South America.

Those arrested took advantage of a large amount of recreational maritime traffic that moves between Europe, Cape Verde Island, and French Guiana.

Due to the fact that the weather conditions are usually extremely dangerous in those regions, the gang needed skippers who could be adept at evading police action.

The main person responsible for hiring the sailors was a man of Spanish origin, now detained. He was also in charge of the purchase and acquisition of the boats used for that purpose.

As the investigations advanced, the investigators learned that one of the ships acquired, a sailboat docked in the marina of Estepona on the Costa del Sol could possibly be in use for transporting drugs.

The boat was observed sailing to Lagos in Portugal

A surveillance operation uncovered crew members of the boat sailing her to Lagos, in Portugal’s Algarve region. From there, after making the necessary preparations for her set-up, she left for the Canary Islands and later to the Island of San Vicente in Cape Verde.

Twenty days later, the vessel left the Port of Mindelo and head towards the southwest of South America. Specifically, it sailed towards the Caribbean islands, one of the locations chosen by criminal organisations dedicated to transporting cocaine as a temporary base to anchor the vessels used for drug trafficking.

Once the yacht was loaded with cocaine, the boat headed northwest along one of the routes normally used by ships that transport drugs from the American continent to Europe.

Officers boarded the boat just off the Azores

On June 22, around the Portuguese Azores Islands, the sailboat was boarded, resulting in the apprehension of 930 kilograms of cocaine and the arrest of the two crew members.

Finally, the operation culminated with the arrest of six people who made up the now-dismantled criminal organisation who had been residing in various cities in Portugal.

Several searches were also carried out in the Portuguese towns of Lagos, San Pedro de Estoril and Cascais. Officers confiscated €111,000 in cash, jewellery, computer and communication material, two boats, two vehicles and documentation related to the investigation.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at